Oz ‘popgun’ woe … now add Amla?

2016-10-01 12:10
Hashim Amla (Gallo)

Cape Town – The feast looks pretty sumptuous already, thanks in no small measure to Quinton de Kock.

Spice it with a certain Hashim Amla, if suitably off the sick list, and Australia could be facing further Highveld angst in Johannesburg on Sunday (10:00 start).

The Proteas blitzed their way to a six-wicket victory over the tourists with as many as 13.4 overs to spare in the first of five one-day internationals at SuperSport Park on Friday, rekindling memories, at least to some extent, of their free-scoring chase exploits in the immortal “438” game 10 years ago.

Speaking of that unforgettable day, the Wanderers is exactly where the caravan heads next for the second fixture, with little time for reflection by either side on what transpired in Centurion.

With De Kock to the fore, South Africa chased down their target of 295 with jaw-dropping ease – and that despite the very rare absence of both their long-serving batsmen who average 50-plus in the format, regular captain AB de Villiers and Amla.

De Villiers sits out the series, but the latter will hopefully return to the mix after being side-lined by a virus on Friday.

In his absence, Rilee Rossouw muscled the ball around himself with great authority as De Kock’s opening partner, as the pair posted 145 runs in little more than 18 overs to get the freight train more than just rumbling.

Booming driver Rossouw will warrant a slot a little lower down if Amla does reoccupy his customary own berth at the front on Sunday (probably endangering one of David Miller or Farhaan Behardien) and it would be an ominous sign to the just-pummelled Aussie attack, given that the SA crease line-up then boasts even greater collective strike power on paper than evidenced in game one.

There seems good reason to tip De Kock, meanwhile, to get stuck in all over again after his violent personal best innings of 178 off 113 balls, eclipsing Herschelle Gibbs’ 175 as a record SA landmark on home turf.

He has shown before a desire not to step off the pedal after one glorious knock, including the memorable period against India in 2013 when he nailed three centuries in a row – including ones at both Centurion and Johannesburg.

Showing the sort of constructive arrogance, if you like, that marked the approach of such legends of batting as Brian Lara, Viv Richards or SA’s own Barry Richards, De Kock was especially masterful on the hook and pull on Friday night, keeping people on the grass banks busy either scurrying for cover or attempting to claim spectator “catches” with a beer in the other hand.

“He’s hardly mistimed a shot, right from the get-go … normally you would go through little periods even in a big innings when (it happens),” said SuperSport guest commentator and former Australian captain Allan Border admiringly of the 23-year-old’s devastating efforts.

The Proteas have certainly made a forceful early statement of their series intentions, even if the Aussie batting arsenal, in particular, naturally still gives the No 1-ranked side a realistic chance of clawing themselves back into the picture – though they are under pressure now to level matters at the Bullring.

If SuperSport Park evidence from their notably second-string seam attack – a solid handful of superior, more menacing pacemen have been left at home – is anything to go by, Australia are going to struggle over the next couple of weeks to contain the SA stroke-players unless there is pronounced movement off the seam or through the air on offer.

What they sorely lack is variety: the group on show on Friday all somehow seemed “right-arm over, medium-fast” with no alternative angles or strategies and also unable to present at least one customer threatening proper menace in the bodily-harm department.

Considering that he is a tad short of express pace himself, the discomfort suffered by the Aussie fast bowlers only put into glowing counter-perspective the cerebral, calm earlier showing of raw Proteas seamer Andile Phehlukwayo.

The sturdy-boned 20-year-old, recording figures in just his second ODI of 10-1-44-4, found probing lengths – unlike several of his far more experienced colleagues – and varied his pace superbly; the speed gun showed that he operated in a pleasingly wide range between 85 and 137km/h.

The analysis was particularly exemplary on a prime occasion for batting when you consider that his first over saw him walloped – once unceremoniously back over his head – for 16 by Aaron Finch. So he ticked a box for stout temperament as well.

Certainly the gnarly Border admitted he liked what he saw: “(That performance) will do his confidence as a newcomer the power of good. With tighter technique, maybe he will also find more pace.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  hashim amla  |  quinton de kock  |  cricket

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